Release Year: 2016
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Ly Richardson, Jessica Sula, Izzie Coffey, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus
Rating: Won 1 Saturn Award: Best Thriller Film. Nominated for 1 Saturn Award: Best Supporting Actress (Betty Buckley).
Three teenage girls are abducted by a man diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities. Now they must try to escape before a 24th known as The Beast emerges to feast on them.
After what a string of below average film from the hand of previously lauded M. Night Shyamalan, it looks like he is back on track. Split is a moody horror thriller that makes excellent use of a confined space and a limited number of actors. James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein, 2015) is great as Kevin and his multible personalities; he is simply an actor that keeps finding new ways to impress. The trio of girls, thank Heaven!, actually act in a realistic way and Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch: A New England Folktale, 2015) as Casey, by far the most interesting character of the three, shows many nuances and depth with relatively little dialogue. She has a good career ahead of her if there is any justice.
Little should be known of the story, because there is relatively little here plot wise, bu the few twists are good and somewhat more subtle than in Shyamalan’s earlier films. Like many of his slower film (for instance The Village or Lady in the Water) the film uses a simple structure to explore complex ideas. Here the main turning point is that different personalities also develop into different physiologies. A major theme is a turning upside down of the notion that damaged people are weak and “normal” people are strong. The well-informed with know that this film ties into Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) and that the upcoming Glass (2019) will tie all three films together. Split has some issues with pacing in the middle part, but overall bodes very well for the future of that particular universe and, hopefully, for Shyamalan’s career.
The character of Kevin (James McAvoy) was inspired by Billy Milligan, who was accused of multible felonies including rape and armed robbery. He was the first to use Multible Personality Disorder as a defense and was acquitted. Milligan had 10 desirable personalities and 13 undesirables as well as a 24th known as The Teacher who was a fusion of the other 23.
Picture Copyright: UIP